A nicely done Psychological thriller

Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke

Publication Date: April 20, 2021

Summary from NetGalley:

Elle Castillo once trained as a social worker, supporting young victims of violent crime. Now she hosts a popular true crime podcast that focuses on cold cases of missing and abducted children.
After four seasons of successfully solving these cases in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Elle decides to tackle her white whale: The Countdown Killer. Twenty years ago, TCK was terrorizing the community, kidnapping and ritualistically murdering three girls over seven days, each a year younger than the last. Then, after he took his eleven-year-old victim, the pattern—and the murders—abruptly stopped. No one has ever known why.

When Elle follows up on a listener tip only to discover the man’s dead body, she feels at fault. Then, within days, a child is abducted—a young girl who seems to fit suspiciously into the TCK sequence halted decades before. While media and law enforcement long ago concluded that TCK had suicided, Elle has never believed TCK was dead. She had hoped her investigation would lay that suspicion to rest, but her podcast seems instead to be inciting new victims.

ARC provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley for an honest review.


There is a lot to like about this book, but there were a few issues as well. But for a debut book, it was pretty good and this is an author I would keep an eye out for in the future. Plus that cover is just awesome and the way it ties into the story is simply amazing.

I really liked the story, a podcaster looking into an unsolved serial killer case. There were lots of clues and red herrings that kept things interesting. But that said, there were a lot of things that ended up pretty easy to figure out. But the writing was good, and I liked the contrast of the narrative with a podcast script interspersed throughout to help the story along.

I liked Elle for the most part. She was a bit self-centered and tended to make everything about her and her issues in solving the case. She also tended to act on a lot of things without really thinking things through. But I also liked that when others pointed this out to her she was able to own up to it. However this never seemed to keep her from making the same mistakes the next time. She was smart and compassionate however which certainly made up for any faults she might have. I really liked her husband, Martin, who was very supportive of her and her podcast, even when things got a bit harried.

The Countdown Killer was an interesting serial killer. I liked that we got to see some of what had driven him to start killing with flashbacks to his childhood. I would have liked a little bit more of this, and maybe for his early life to have been a bit more horrifying, It just didn’t seem to be enough to turn him into what he became. Also the reason for his sudden hiatus from killing also didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But his methods and some of the reasons were quite intriguing. I was not totally surprised when the big reveal happened, I had pretty much figured who it was as soon as that character had been introduced into the story. But there were moments of doubt through out the book, so not a bad job of keeping the identity secret to the end.

The pacing was fairly good through out the story, although a few of the podcast episodes were maybe a tad too long. I liked many of the secondary characters, especially the detectives that Elle worked with and her friend, Sash. Natalie, Sash’s daughter, was an absolute delight as well and I loved the scenes that included her.

Overall this was a pretty good psychological thriller, that could have used a bit more suspense. This is an author to keep an eye on as she certainly has some interesting ideas.

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